Dear Miss Meghan,
I got back together with my ex a few weeks ago, and then I found out that she had hooked up with a few other individuals since we had last broken up. I’m now worried that she may have contracted something during that time. How do we go about getting tested?
-Scared of Sharing
Dear Scared of Sharing,
Thanks for asking this! It is important for any new or new-again relationships to have honesty regarding their past sexual behaviors. While it may be an awkward conversation to talk about past behaviors, it both builds intimacy and increases your safety. I’m not saying you should carry around a list with the names of every person you have ever hooked up with or have the conversation about your “numbers” of partners. What I am asking is that you ask your partner what behaviors they have and have not done in the past, what they want to do and don’t want to do with you currently or in the near future, and if they have engaged in sexual behaviors since last getting tested.
Yes, using a condom will reduce your risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from your partner. However, not all STIs are prevented from use of a condom, especially if it is one that may be living on the skin around the genitals (maybe the image of tiny crab-like lice creatures crawling around on your partner’s pubic area is enough to wait until you both get tested).
I would also recommend after getting tested once, to get tested again in six months because some STIs can hibernate in the body and don’t test positive until 6 months out.
Our SMCM health center can do some STI screening. However, the health center is not equipped to do comprehensive testing for all STIs. If you are symptomatic (for example, have a burning sensation, itching, a break out of some kind, distinctive odor, a discolored discharge, or unusual redness or irritation) then I would highly recommend coming into the health center as soon as possible to discuss your symptoms with a practitioner.
However, if you are just being smart and cautious, your best bet is the St. Mary’s County Health Department located in Leonardtown (21580 Peabody Street). Every Wednesday, they offer free STI screenings on a walk-in basis. You can also make an appointment by calling 301-475-4330. Make sure to advocate for yourself and find out exactly what you are being tested for, how the different STIs are tested for (blood versus urine versus visual inspection), and the chances of false-positives and false-negatives for the array of STIs/tests. It doesn’t hurt to go in with a checklist of STIs to make sure that you are being screened for all that you may be concerned about.
If you have trouble getting to Leonardtown and can’t find a friend to drive you, I may be able to find a way to help you out if you are desperate. I would much rather spend time helping you find a ride to the clinic now than have an STI outbreak on campus. Mold issues are one thing; a rash of STI breakouts is a whole different boatload of trouble.